This Rick Hess column about reviewing ESSA plans – that I assume is aimed at our ESSA review project even though he doesn’t say it – is kind of interesting. For starters, I had thought Rick was in the advising and analysis business, but apparently that’s wrong and they’re running some sort of school or auto body shop over there at AEI.
Substantively what jumps out is that apparently the new conservative education position is not that federal law should be minimalist and not-prescriptive and so forth. Instead, the new position is that federal law should not matter at all or doesn’t matter at all.
Hess makes a reasonable point that some of the states are putting in place goals that are questionable, at best. We agree and the ESSA reviews point that out. And that’s why a comprehensive review matters, to see what supports are or are not in place and whether it’s a paper chase or serious effort in different states. Yet it’s quite a leap from dubious work by some states to saying that none of this ESSA process matters at all. It matters because it’s the best signal of what states are going to be up to under the new law – and of course down the road looking at what they’ve actually done will matter, too, but it’s too soon for that work now.
But this part is of Hess’ critique is worth responding to because it’s so far wide of the mark, at least as far as our work is concerned:
Bizarrely, the whole exercise proceeds as if there were some agreed-upon “one best” approach to educational accountability. Of course, there’s not. In fact, the actual authorities on accountability—you know, the folks who spend lots of time examining how accountability works in practice—usually take pains to note that the “right” approach to accountability will vary with culture, context, and experience.
We agree! That’s why the Bellwether/CSS review was made up of former state chiefs and state policymakers as well as experts on various aspects of the policy – and very intentionally people with diverse views on federal policy, accountability, and other key issues (round 1 here and round 2 here). That so many state level people are willing to put time in on this speaks to the value they see. Around AEI I think they call that a market signal? Anyway, the entire project was specifically designed not to be one-best approach to how states should do this work but rather one best method for evaluating state approaches: Bring together diverse expertise to talk each plan through on its specifics. You can see the results from the first round and stay tuned for round two via this website. That lands next week.
Back at the ranch, global test scores causing alarm.
— Chad Aldeman (@ChadAldeman) December 5, 2017
The only reason we know any of this is….data. DQC with new report cards out.
This Upshot column should spark some conversations on school quality. You shouldn’t fetishize growth any more than you fetishize status scores but a good push here.
And on school quality, check out this new resource in Boston.
Here’s perhaps the one test the education world actually loves, and it’s got some flaws.
So, I came to the conclusion that I care about my students’ test scores. Do I think that they are the only thing that matter? Of course not. Do I think that they are the most important aspect of teaching and learning? No. But do I think that standardized tests results are solid predictors for how kids will do after high school? Yes. Do I think they help hold us educators accountable in a way that we need? Yes.
Moody’s downgrades higher ed.